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Senator John McCain raised a paltry, humiliating $13 million during the first quarter of this year—placing him far behind Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani in the race to buy the presidency. So what’s a campaign-finance-reformer to do? Flip-flop. McCain is now counting on intensified support from big contributors to George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns, many of whom he railed against during his heady period as a campaign finance reformer in years gone by.
Sixty former Bush Rangers or Pioneers raised money for McCain during the first quarter (versus about thirty each for Romney and Giuliani), and last month he appointed one of them, Tom Loeffler, to take over his fundraising operation.
Loeffler is a former member of Congress from Texas who retired in 1986. According to a 1984 study by Public Citizen, he compiled the worst record of any member on consumer issues, and also made news as the top recipient of illegal contributions from Vernon Savings & Loan, which went belly-up at a cost to taxpayers of $1.3 billion. But Loeffler’s finest moment during his years on the Hill came during a mid-1980s trip to San Francisco, when he reportedly called the front desk at his hotel and asked to have extra shower caps brought up to wear on his feet, in order to protect against the AIDS virus.
After retiring, Loeffler became a lobbyist and soon was embroiled in several scandals that marked Bush’s Texas gubernatorial tenure. One came after Bush appointed him to the University of Texas System Board of Regents, where he give the startup firm Introgen Therapeutics the exclusive right to license a gene cancer therapy that had been developed at the university. Several years later, the drug firm named Loeffler to its board and gave him 10,000 shares of stock. Introgen is a current lobbying client for The Loeffler Group, as is Toyota, Qualcomm, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and Saudi Arabia. Overall, the firm took in $4.6 million in lobbying fees last year.
Loeffler should be of great help to McCain in drumming up campaign money. He’s previously held top fundraising posts for presidential campaigns mounted by former Texas senator Phil Gramm and Bob Dole, and in 2004 was co-chairman of the Republican National Committee’s Team 100 as well as a Bush Super-Ranger, a title given to those who raised more than $300,000.
A recent Houston Chronicle story says Loeffler has decided to use the Bush money model for McCain, “setting dollar targets for the bundlers and creating a McCain 100 and McCain 200 team for those who raised $100,000 and $200,00, respectively.” Other big Bush donors now in McCain’s camp include James B. Lee, Jr., vice chairman of JP Morgan Chase; Donald Bren, chairman of the board of directors of The Irvine Company and the 104th richest person in the world according to Forbes; and A. Jerrold Perenchio, the controlling shareholder of Univision Communications. The latter is a major donor to tax-exempt 527 groups that flourish because they exploit loopholes in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill. In 2005,
according to the Washington Post, McCain “went to court to try to curtail the influence of a group to which [Perenchio] gave $9 million, saying it was trying to ‘evade and violate’ new campaign laws with voter ads ahead of the midterm elections.”
Things change. “Over the years, I have become close friends with each of these distinguished men,” McCain said last December when announcing that Loeffler, Lee, and so on would become major fundraisers for his campaign. “I am honored to have their support as we move forward. Their dedication to the Republican Party and their renowned financial savvy are essential to any successful campaign, and I am so grateful that they have chosen to bring their talents and wisdom to our team.”
It definitely seems that McCain has inherited the Bush donor machine–but his continued support for Bush’s unpopular failure in Iraq will complicate his effort to win the presidency no matter how much money he raises.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.
Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”
Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:
Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.
Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.
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Science’s crisis of faith